Daily Choices to Achieve Your Goals

early morning daily choices

When we want to make change in our lives, many of us focus on creating long-term or big-picture goals. And this is super important because it gives us something to dream about, to work toward, and to believe in. 

But just having those goals in place doesn’t mean we’ll automatically achieve them! We have to create process goals or, what I like to call, “micro actions” that tie directly to our bigger, outcome goals. Those micro actions need to be so small that it almost seems ridiculous. And we need to choose to take those actions daily – sometimes even hourly – in order to reach our goals.

In this post, I’ll walk you through exactly why those daily choices are in fact, the most important.

Nothing is Neutral

The quality of your life is made up of the cumulative effect of many small actions, many daily choices over time — positive or negative. No differently, achieving your goals happens when you make many daily choices (over weeks and months) that move you toward those goals. 

This can get tricky because since it’s a cumulative effect over time, we may not notice the effect or impact in that moment. So we may not notice the subtle, incremental movement toward the goal (which can demotivate us) and, perhaps more importantly, we may not notice the subtle, incremental movement away from the goal. 

Yep, that’s right – even small and subtle choices we make are not neutral! Everything we do (or don’t do) is either moving us toward or away from our goal. 

Let’s say you have a goal to increase your mobility and flexibility. If you choose to stretch daily, you will increase your mobility and flexibility. If you choose to skip a day of stretching, you are not staying in the same place (“neutral”) but actually decreasing your mobility and flexibility. 

Take the Decision Out

Another practice that can support us in reaching our goals, brings us back to those micro actions or small daily choices we define in relation to reaching our goals. These choices need to be very specific, very precise, and they need to be elevated into what I call “non-negotiable status.” If they are, it takes the decision out of the process. 

In order to elevate the daily choices we make into non-negotiable status, they have to be tethered back to our “why” – the purpose or reason behind the big goal we hope to achieve. When we see that direct correlation, we will be more likely to follow through with those daily choices.

When trying to make your choices or actions very specific and precise, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is the specific small action I will take? 
  • What time of day will I do it? And for how long?
  • Where does this need to take place?
  • How will I do it / what do I need to make it happen?

Action vs Motion

Now, all of the above – the defining of the big goals and the micro actions, the drilling down to the most specific and tangible choices, and the prioritizing into non-negotiable status are all important and necessary but they’re NOT the actual thing that will move you toward your goal. For that you need ACTION – the actual expenditure of energy that is moving you in the direction of your goal. 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, differentiates between two forms of energy usage – one being “motion” and the other being “action.” Motion is an expenditure of energy that doesn’t actually move us anywhere. Whereas action is an expenditure of energy that moves us toward the goal. 

So now is when the rubber meets the road – you’ve got all the plans in place, you’ve connected those choices to your bigger why and you see the importance… now you have to wake up and make the choices (REGULARLY) and take the actions (REGULARLY) to get where you want to go. When in doubt, ask yourself “Am I in motion or action? Is what I’m doing right now actually moving me toward my goal?”

Life Happens – The Importance of Flexible Containers & Inflexible Contents

Best laid plans never fail – right? This is why no matter how well we’ve “mastered” the above components, it’s super important to recognize the barriers that may keep us from taking the actions that we’ve outlined – because they will – because life doesn’t always go as planned. 

This is why it’s important to be flexible but also stick to your plan in whatever way you can. Creating containers of time that hold the space in your day/week/life to take action that moves you toward your goal is the first step. But what’s more important than prioritizing the container around your time, is being able to prioritize the actions even if outside of the original container of time.

If we wake up late and miss our 6am, hour-long workout – do we just throw in the towel for the day? That prioritizes the container of time over the contents or actions we’ve decided to take… Or, as a friend once asked me, “if you had a carton of eggs and you took one out and dropped it, would you then take the whole carton and smash it on the ground?” No, you wouldn’t. 

Instead, you move your dinner date to get to the 6pm class OR you get in a quick 30-min workout now and one later… or, just stay as close as you can to the minimum action you can squeeze in so that you’re still moving toward and not away from your ultimate goal.

How to stick to our daily choices

As you have read, those small, sometimes seemingly insignificant daily choices are in fact the only way to achieve your goals. Without taking steps daily, it can be hard to stay motivated and is easier to fall off all together. Here are a few tips to stick with the daily choices that will help you achieve your goals:

  1. Know your why. If you know that deep, driving factor behind your goals, it is easier to stick with the small daily actions that will get you there. For more on how to do this, check out my post on Finding Your Why.
  2. Take the decision out. Spell out the exact details of the daily choice so when it comes up, there is no confusion about what, where or how- making it easier to follow through.
  3. Prioritize them. Prioritize the actions that will get you where you need to be. Schedule them in and if life gets in the way, shift things around to make sure to accommodate the daily action you are trying to take.
  4. Choose action over motion. Be sure to put your efforts into things that are getting you to your goal and not just spinning your wheels.
  5. Stay attentive. This one is a good general rule of thumb for life but certainly applies here. We want to pay attention to the things that align with our goals, values and where we are heading instead of falling back on unconscious decision making, likely a habit.

With love,

Ellie

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July 1, 2021

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